As the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced, the ascender module of the Chinese mission Chang'e 5 successfully docked with the orbiter-returner combination and delivered a capsule with lunar soil samples (regolith) on Sunday. The Moon samples weigh about 2 kilos and have been transferred from the ascender to the returner.

This event marked the first human effort in automated lunar orbit rendezvous as well as the first time that a Chinese spacecraft carried out docking in a lunar orbit.

Now the orbital and return modules will dock. After that, the orbiter-returner will separate from the ascender and wait for the opportunity to return to Earth. Under favorable conditions, the orbital module should burn up in the atmosphere, and the returner one should get back.

The Chang'e 5 probe was launched on November 24 atop a Long March 5 rocket, and it consists of an orbiter, a lander, an ascender, and a returner. Its lander-ascender combination landed on the Moon on December 1. After collecting and sealing the samples, the ascender left the lunar surface on December 3.

China Launches a Historic Mission to Bring Moon Samples to Earth
If successful, this mission would make China the third country to retrieve Moon materials, after the United States and the former Soviet Union.

Thus, China is one step away from becoming the third country in history to deliver lunar soil to Earth. Until now, only the Soviet Union and the United States have been able to do this.